UN panel: Authorities could have stopped Bhutto murder

PAKISTANI authorities could have prevented the 2007 murder of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto and deliberately failed to properly investigate her death, a UN-appointed independent panel has said.

“Ms Bhutto’s assassination could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken,” said a report by a three- member panel headed by Chile’s UN ambassador Heraldo Munoz.

The panel, tasked with establishing the circumstances of the killing, said it believed the Pakistani police’s failure to effectively probe the slaying “was deliberate”.

The report also said the investigation was severely hampered by intelligence agencies and other officials who impeded “an unfettered search for the truth”.

The charismatic, Oxford -educated Bhutto, the first woman to become prime minister of a Muslim country, was killed on December 27, 2007, in a gun and suicide attack after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital Islamabad.

Her death threw the world’s only nuclear -armed Islamic nation into chaos, sparking violence and months of political turmoil that ended in September 2008 when her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, claimed the presidency.

The Munoz-led panel said in its 65-page report that the federal government, the government of Punjab and the Rawalpindi district police were responsible for Bhutto’s security the day of her assassination.

“None of these entities took the necessary measures to respond to the extraordinary, fresh, urgent security risks that they knew she faced,” it added.

It noted that the Pakistani government failed to provide Bhutto with the same stringent and specific security measures it ordered on October 22, 2007, for two other former prime ministers belonging to the main political party supporting then-president Pervez Musharraf.

“This discriminatory treatment is profoundly troubling given the devastating attempt on her life only three days earlier and the specific threats against her which were being tracked” by Pakistani intelligence.

The report said the subsequent Pakistani probe “lacked direction, was ineffective and suffered from a lack of commitment to identify and bring all of the perpetrators to justice”.

It added that it was up to Pakistani authorities to carry out a “serious, credible criminal investigation that determines who conceived, ordered and executed this heinous crime... and brings those responsible to justice”.

Munoz told reporters that the UN probe was not a criminal investigation.

He said his panel conducted more than 250 interviews, meeting Pakistani officials and private citizens, foreign citizens and Britain’s Scotland Yard which probed some aspects of the killing.

According to Scotland Yard’s inquiry, Bhutto died from the force of a suicide bomb and not gunfire.

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